Worldwide, many people admire France and its people, and for those of us who get an opportunity to visit, we experience a serene and laid back culture where we can eat the best cheeses and drink the most exquisite wines. Attentive visitors to the country get a chance to witness the French engage in various recreational pursuits, including three hour dinners, reading a book by the Louvre, or possibly even a shorter work day. What we should admire and potentially emulate from the French is not only their sense of fashion and taste in delicate goods, but perhaps their work habits. Yes, while the French know how to relax, they know equally well how to work efficiently, which results in higher productivity rates. According to a recent survey, the average French employee works less than the American employee, but is more productive. Specifically, the French employee is about 18 percent more productive, on an hourly basis, than the average American employee. To the average American, this may not make inherent sense. After all, doesn’t working more hours equate to more results? Not necessarily. Contrary to popular belief, working additional hours does not automatically yield greater returns. Think of a basic economic growth principle known as“diminishing returns to labor,”which is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a rate of yield that, beyond a certain point, fails to increase in proportion to additional investments of labor or capital.”
Overtime, it has become deeply embedded in our culture that working more and working harder would put us ahead and yield greater returns. However, this mentality has cost us on a personal level. More and more Americans are working more and sleeping less, resulting in a slew of problems. These include but are limited to, spending less time with family, getting an array of health problems, including obesity and joint pain due to inactivity at the workplace and not having enough time to exercise. According to this study, the number one reason most Americans don’t work out is simply because they don’t have enough time.
Additionally, we have a culture where we respect the notion of being “busy” because this most certainly means our time is limited and valued by society and our bosses, because we have been trusted to be engaged in lots of endeavors and projects. When our friends and relatives ask us how we are faring, we tell them we are “busy” because being in an alternative state must mean that we have too much time on our hands and we aren’t being ambitious enough. As a result, we eat our lunch in front of a computer screen, using the intended lunch break not as a lunch hour but as a power hour to get ahead. But get ahead how? Even as humans we have limitations to how much we can produce in any given day. As a nation, having an underlying tone of one in which our time is valued and thus our people are “busy” should no longer be our cup of tea. We have chosen to be busy, mostly by working more hours, making it a social trend nationally. How do we change these notions and accepted ideas that actually perpetuate workplace unproductivity? It can start with a lunch break away from the computer screen where we engage with our peers ina lively discussion on how make America better, not busier.
Does your organization have strategies in place to battle lack of workplace productivity and balance?